Childhood Obesity: A Family Approach

Childhood Obesity: A Family Approach

Childhood obesity has been on the rise for the past 2 years.  As we enter this new phase of the COVID 19 pandemic where social distancing restrictions are more relaxed and children are once again participating in outdoor activities, and team sports, it’s important that families take on a greater role in modeling healthy eating to reverse eating habits that contributed to rapid weight gain and the subsequent chronic conditions associated with it.

Children learn how to eat and what to eat in the family setting. Despite children spending most of their time at school and daycare, parents have the biggest influence on what children eat. Parents can play a central role in introducing children to healthy food choices that children will carry with them into adulthood.

Why is a healthy weight important for children?

A healthy weight prevents children from obesity and their risk of serious long-term health problems: diabetes, high cholesterol, joint pain, asthma, sleep apnea, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

How can families help?

Have home-cooked meals at the table and eat as a family.

  • Use family meals to model eating with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains.
  • Use that time to teach manners at the table, and make sure to turn off the TV, radio and other electronic devices.
    • This will allow you and your family to eliminate distractions and enjoy pleasant conversation, and family connection.

Make healthy eating fun and interesting.

  • Find a fun way to allow children to help with small tasks while preparing meals like washing vegetables, setting the table, adding vegetables to salads.
  • Invite children to participate in meal preparation.
  • Make ordinary dishes more interesting by cutting fruit, vegetables, or whole grain bread into animal shapes.
  • Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables with lots of colors and encourage children to try something new.

Be a role model.

  • Children copy adults, so show them how much you enjoy consuming healthy food options.
  • Avoid diet-focused language in the home, such as labeling food as good and bad, special food, treat food, junk food, etc. Instead try using words such as nourishing, energizing, nutrient-rich, and satisfying when describing food.
  • Reward children with experiences, like a family outing to a park, as an alternative to food-based rewards.

Encourage physical activities.

  • Turn off the TV and establish times for outdoor or indoor play.
  • Encourage an interest in fun physical activities such as biking, skating, or jumping on a trampoline.
  • Plan other fun family outdoor activities:
    • Family Picnics
    • Hiking on local trails
    • Swimming
    • Biking

Learn more about Mary’s Center’s nutrition services here. To make an appointment, call 1-844-796-2797 or click here.